At the chalkface: How dare they…

Written by: Ian Whitwham | Published:

“I want everyone to see us as a force for improvement,” says Amanda Spielman. Hurrah! Though careful with the language, please, less of the “force”...

Ofsted are having a turn, a U-turn. It’s supposedly the biggest turn they’ve had in 10 years.

“I want everyone to see us as a force for improvement,” says Amanda Spielman. Hurrah! Though careful with the language, please, less of the “force”...
Education, they’ve decided, has been too narrowly focused on exam results.


They’re no longer going to treat children as primarily measurable “outcomes”. The emphasis will now be on “quality of education”, whatever that means. They’re going to pay much less attention to data.


They don’t want us only teaching to the test.


Moreover, they’re going to punish schools for “off-rolling” the poor and gaming league table rankings.


The curriculum and culture is damaging. That would be the curriculum and culture they’ve “forced” on us with increasing ferocity since 1992.

Nurse, the smelling salts!

They’ve got some nerve, some neck. How dare they? No apology. No remorse? It’s better late than never I suppose, but the damage has been done.

Generations of children have been sacrificed to corporate, market values, measured, rejected, “off-rolled” and failed. Generations of teachers have been disappeared or ruined, because they wouldn’t or couldn’t perform the Ofsted nonsense. We were “forced” to finesse exams and “off-roll” the poor. Cheat. I knew a school – oh, all right, mine – which disappeared about 100 teachers who just refused to do it.

Enter the Ofsted hit squad. Many staff went half-daft with all the pointless documentation, preparation and lesson plans. We sought the solace of beta-blockers, booze and tranx. Ofsted made us sick. Ofsted made us ill. The school went into paralysis and a collective nervous breakdown. We didn’t teach, we did Ofsted.

For nigh-on 30 years.

So I’m sceptical about these changing guidelines.

Let’s start with Luke Tryl. He’s Ofsted’s “director of corporate strategy” – not a promising nomenclature. “We are not saying outcomes don’t matter, but we have reached the limits of what data alone can tell us.” Eh? This is grudging, fudging obfuscation.

Perhaps Amanda Spielman is more lucid: “We will look at how providers are deciding what to teach and whether it is leading to strong outcomes for young people.” I thought we’d ditched “outcomes”. I have never been a “provider”.

She goes on to observe that young people will “benefit from positive learning environments”. Oh come on. I’ve always tried to foster a negative one.

These changes will come into “force” next September. I wouldn’t hold your breath.

  • Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.


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